• EEVblog #69 – Sex Toys, Telescopes, Cable TV, UHF Modulation, Renewable Energy, & Silly Shower Taps

    Dave goes on holidays to Hawaii and rants a little bit about a variety of things, yet ultimately manages to tie Sex Toys, big Telescopes, Cable TV, NTSC, UHF Modulation, Renewable Power Generation, and bad product design together in the one blog.

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      • RyanE

        I don’t know much about taps, other than I’m guessing the biggest benefit of the single mixing valve is probably *design*. i.e. you don’t have two valves.

      • Charles-Xavier

        The majority of single mixing valve are balanced so if someone flush, the temperature dont change.

        Sorry for my bad english

      • Should asked me which island to hit up and I would have said Kauai or Maui but oh well, I have been to Kona once before and its “different” as best as I can sum it up. I was under the impression hawaii got a majority of its power from geothermal sources?

      • JM

        Most showers here have gone to the integrated mixing taps. Some are quite nice, others are not. I think one of the benefits is how they work with water saving shower heads, which would also have the benefits for toilet flushing that Charles mentioned.

        Interestingly, though, spent a couple of weeks near Melbourne last year and that’s what was in the shower, so I don’t think it’s a solely US thing.

        Complete agreement on the overhead cable thing. I believe the first image is cable and phone, and the second image was cable, phone, and 110/220V. Most newer developments use underground, but it comes down simply to cost, the aesthetics are only a recent concern, it used to be simply overhead was done anywhere that storm damage to the lines cost less than burying them.

      • DaleB

        I think that almost everywhere in the US the building codes require, at least for hotels and such, an anti-scalding system on the shower supply. These are nearly always the single knob type that you saw.

        There are good ones on the market that provide a wide range of temperature and flow rate adjustments but they are pretty expensive. Hotels will usually use the cheapest ones on the market and you saw the result. In some cities, the building codes even require these systems for residential showers.

        I have one of these in my newly remodeled bathroom shower and it works well because I bought a good one, It actually controls the temperature to a value set in an LCD readout at whatever flow you set. It did cost about $350 though.

      • Michael Thompson

        We just had our bathrooms re-done and one advantage (of ours at least) is the fact that you set the temp once and simply turn it on after that without having to fiddle with it.
        I’ve hardly touched my shower adjustment since it was installed.

        That and low-flow toilets means they are flush-proof, as was mentioned earlier.

        -but yeah that “pull on the bottom of the tap” thing is pretty dumb and far from intuitive.
        My in-laws have those.

      • About the showers again. There is a valve that regulated the hot water coming into it. If some other line is using hot water it compensates.

        Also, the hotel ones are no way to judge it. They by the least expensive ones which everyone agrees are terrible.

        Probably the best thing about them is that you can put it at the right place the first time and not adjust them for years. Hotel ones aren’t like this because you normally have to crank them all the way through the temperature settings to turn them off. However, the ones people actually buy are nice because how far you rotate them changes the temperature and how far they are pulled out regulated the pressure and on/off.

        Seriously they are like soldering irons in a sense that the ease of use is miles apart for $20 difference.

      • G’DAY MATE!!,
        First of all thanks for answering my mail.

        At last!! a new blog!! Grouse pictures!!
        Beaut, beauty!! ACE!!
        (notice my increasing proficiency on aussie slang)

        Hawai is a beautifull place and I totally agree with you, it’s a shame that all that beauty ends up destroyed because some idiots fail to realize that they have an infinite amount of renewable energy sources.

        I’m no expert, but I’m sure that being volcanic islands the geothermic energy must be a very vast and viable source.

        Here in Argentina the porcentage of energy from renewable sources is less than 1% THAT’S CRAZY!!! We have a coast line 4.989 km long!! imagine the possibilities of Tidal and wind energy!!. There are vast extensions of land that are useless for crops and could be turned into wind farms if the political decision to do so comes.

        Anyways, I think we have to pressure our governments untill our dependence of fosil energy becomes a bad memory. After all we need electricity to power the sextoys and the TV to buy them!!


      • Anthony H.

        Hi Dave, I am from Idaho USA, and I have to agree with you about the shower knob stuff. I would guess that in a hotel the builders might have got kick backs from some interior design company or something, I am guess its more for compactness and looks than for actual usability.

        Personally I like my shower at home, it has 3 knobs, ‘Hot’ ‘Cold’ and ‘Shower’. The shower knob just diverts from the main faucet to the shower head. My only complaint is that the pressure isn’t as high as Id like. But we are on a community well.

        My house is a single wide trailer home built in the 70s or something. Kind of a real piece of crap, but at least the shower is nice. 🙂

        On a side note I would avoid American cable t if I were you, its mostly shitty commercials, it will rot your brain. I swear theres less commercials with free over the air tv than with cable or satellite tv.

      • It’s the same here in New England. All aerial cable, phone and electric. Except the interesting part.

        When they redid the two main thoroughfares they buried the electric cables. The streets between are all aerial though and carry the phone and cable services. Bizarre.

        Regards taps for water, it’s not ALL like that. Just the hotels. We have a Symmons unit, one knob to control water temp, a swing lever to switch between spout and shower head. Full control too!

        As to energy generation, oh boy have I got a story for you.

        First background, I live in RI. Deep Water Wind wants to build turbines in Narragansett Bay. Nice – good place for them.

        But get this, they want 24.4 cents per kWH with a 3.5% per year increases for a 20 year term. So at the end of 20 years you’d be paying close to 50 cents per kWH. What, what?????

        First off, the price of wind increases over time? Are you fucking kidding me? Secondly, the standard rate from National Grid is 9 cents per kWH. Tell me, who the hell is going to buy wind power?

        • BTW, update! Seems the Public Utilities Commission denied the agreement for Deep Water Wind.

      • When is the next “real” EEV blog?

        • When is the next

          • I think full workbench.

      • Ben

        Hey Dave, welcome back !
        Some cultures have invented wonderful and simple products to make life easier, for example the bidet.
        You sometimes wonder why on earth some other cultures refuses to use it, even when it’s benefits are clear and necessary in modern life.
        I was in USA for about one month and surprise ! again the hotel didn’t have a bidet, no matter what hotel you stay in, the bidet will be missing.
        Why? Because in USA there is this sort of tabu that bidet’s are unhealthy and expensive.
        And to my surprise everyone defends toilet paper, when in fact it isn’t as hygienic, It’s just isn’t I, don’t need to be a pathologist to figure out water is cleaner than paper specially because tap water contains chlorine.
        I know talking about poo isn’t nice, sorry for that, It pissed me off for 35 days, I had to get it out 😛
        Don’t you think hotels should have some sort of international standard to follow specially in regards to personal hygiene?
        I found europe hotels much more confortable in this area.
        Bottom line is, there are great products that are good for you and the planet, they are usually cheap and widely available, and yet people refuses to use it.


        • ac

          I’d never heard of or seen a bidet that I remember so I looked it up. Interesting for sure given the claim that it’s more hygienic than using paper. “electronic bidets can cause back flow contaminating the water” (not sure why the problem would be only limited to electronic ones but says so in wikipedia) I guess it’s no surprise that bidets are used in places where tap water ain’t of top quality. The tap water here has such reputation that there’s a company bottling it here shipping it to arab countries! Hilarious

      • Mav

        Funny you should mention the cable TV wires in Hawaii as I found the same to be true of power lines in Australia. I spent six months in Perth and the one thing I never got was that the 240v power lines were strung around the streets on poles , yet the telephone system was underground the opposite to UK (BT twisted copper telephone lines are on poles here).

        It along with power generation is a matter of the almighty dollar (as the Americans would say)political will has little to do with it as Politics are ultimately driven by money.

        So why don’t they bury the cable TV lines ? because it will cost money to do it and the cable operators aren’t gonna be outta pocket voluntarily and there will be no will from the polies to change that in-case it effects the revenue stream (in the form of taxes and kickbacks) from the media outfits.

        Same with power generation ok going back a few years, but for example why would the bush administration push for renewable s when they were themselves a bunch of Texan Oil Tycoons ?

        It’s the ago old adage “Money talks Bullshit walks” a mass swap to renewables will only happen when it becomes fiscally advantageous, sure the governments will throw around token smoke screens and mirrors , a wind farm here a solar panel there to keep the populous sedate.

        It doesn’t matter that Hawaii has geothermal outta the yingyangs it will never be tapped as long as the bigwigs stand to loose money.

        Come on Dave your a clever bloke im sure you have worked this un out 🙂

        Its a crappy world but what can ya do.

      • Dan

        Hey Mate,

        Here in New Zealand, we are much like you Aussies. We recently remodelled, and got these weird shower mixers. You have the standard lever that you pull out, and then turn to the temperature. The weird part is, the shower and the bath spigot are the same tuning control, and there is a button to control which of the two the water is routed to.

        I’ve only been to Aussie, no other countries. I thought it was so weird, so many differences. My Dad said that other countries are even stranger, so I look forward to USA and UK.

      • Chris (US)

        When I was in Australia less than a year ago I was surprised to see everything still has two handle faucets. I find those difficult to use anymore.
        From an engineering point of view it’s easier to control the output (temp) when you only have one input variable, not two.

      • fsleeman

        Not all faucets are created equal and in the US there is a large variety. Cost is probably the main reason for the high occurrence of these poorly designed combined systems. Some of them work well but others don’t and even feel cheap. A nice three knob set costs more but its worth it. I guess they figure if your bed is ok you won’t care how well they built the shower.

        In much of the US suspended power lines are the norm and people don’t really think about it. Again, I am sure cost is a factor when deciding whether to bury the cables or not. Often power and TV/phone lines are on the same poles but when they are not, it might just be out of habit that they don’t bury them. Not sure if the ground in Hawaii would make burying them more problematic.

        • Roddy

          In the former “Canal Zone” telephone and electrical lines where all burried both on and off the military bases. We never had problems with either in the 23 years I was there, except when we had a minor earthquake; once that I remember. I asked why the lines wheren’t buried in Florida and the answer I got,was because of the waterline, Florida being mostly at sea level.
          I’ve been to O’ahu, but must admit I never dug a hole. I imagine Hawaii has a lot of lava rock you would have to dig through to put the lines underground. Got to be Expensive!

      • brims

        You turn the single knob to the temperature you want. To go from bath to shower you turn the water on, then pull the little knob up. You don’t need to pull it up while turning the water on.

      • Qno

        Hi Dave

        Had a nice holiday? What does your wife say when you promise her a romantic sunset on top of a mountain ending up inspecting scientific instruments or having a romantic stay near a beautiful waterfall in Hawaii and getting enthusiastic about a water generator. I sure hope you where also enthusiastic about her!

        The cables have to do with the money. It is much cheaper to have them hanging on poles than to bury them when you have a rocky bottom.
        Same as in the Caribbean. And when the cable is damaged after an earthquake you can see where it is broken. Under ground you have to dig.
        About the taps; this is progress. Here in Europe thermostatic taps are in high fashion these days. There is some kind of bellow inside that shrinks or expands depending on the water temperature opening or closing the hot water tap stabilizing the temperature. Works quite well.

        • So explain to me why in the northeast U.S. with the exception of NYC and environs, we still have aerial cable even in the urban areas? It isn’t like we’re still geologically active here.

          And you should have seen the holy stink that National Grid put up when they relocated I-195 in the city. It was suggested they bury the high tension power lines that hung over India Point Park. Well, you would have thought they’d asked National Grid not just for a weasel, but a lightly fried weasel on a bun.

          It ended up that all the rate payers in RI got to pay for that burial.

      • SteveM


        DaleB has it pretty much nailed. The US has officially been a nanny-state for some time now (the government are convinced that we are all too stupid to adjust water temperature ourselves, so we have to be “protected” from scalding ourselves). Even the courts have ruled in favor of people who manage to do just that, with megabuck settlements/decisions.

        I worked in engineering in a university hospital, and the regs surrounding this and other areas are so confusing and outright stupid that no one can understand what is required, other than “make sure the patients can’t harm themselves”. So it goes.

      • Newton

        If you ever go on vacation to Japan I can

      • huh

        We have single valve taps here in the EU too, generally they’re good enough to allow a good mixing. I believe there are production costs involved and a better technology too as I’ve never seen a single valve tap dripping, which was a common defect among traditional valves after a few years.
        They’re also useful to those uneducated people who get warm water by opening the hot water at full throttle then add a bit of cold water: with a single valve tap you’re forced to reduce the hot flow to raise the cold one.
        If you encountered one that was hard to operate chances are that the plumber put a linear tap in a circuit designed for a logarithmic one:)

      • John W.

        So, if NTSC is “Never Twice the Same Color”, is ATSC “Always Twice the Same Color”?

      • Michael Thompson

        I don’t count it a “real” episode until something’s been thrown off of a dam.

      • Hobgoblin

        “…yet ultimately manages to tie Sex Toys, big Telescopes, Cable TV, NTSC, UHF Modulation, Renewable Power Generation, and bad product design together in the one blog.”

        You sir truly are a god amongst men.

      • Embedded

        The single mix valve was pioneered by Delta who also had a pull or lever up for volume.

        Moen made this except for a pull out volume in Tyler Texas until the mid 90’s. (Delta still had a patent.)

        Moen cost reduced this to no pull out volume.

        Moen then off shored the factory to Mexico then to China.

        Now we buy cheap Chinese junk.

        I worked for Nautilus in that very factory in Tyler (The slab still had all the CNC and Test fixtures marked in it for Moen Taps and the exterior signage faded into the building) as the EE Manager where we made the Bowflex and all the treadmills until 2006. Nautilus then off shored the Bowflex and most of the Treadmills to a company called Land America in Shenzhen, Guangdong Province, China.

        Now I work in Oil and Gas where a EE is not very valued.

        The issue is not a Nanny state or any such thing. It was just the race to the bottom. One valve and much less brass is cheaper than two valves and a mixer/direction valve. We are all guilty by not insisting on good design. I didn’t start shopping at Walmart! But millions of American’s did and finished the intellectual economy of America by promoting the race to the bottom, to China.

      • Embedded

        NTSC was coined as Never Twice the Same Colour at Richmond Hill Labs, Ontario Canada.

        Richmond Hill Labs had the contract to make the all CBC Colour studio’s in the mid 50’s until about the early 70’s.

        I had the pleasure of working with one of the pioneers of Colour TV from Richmond Hill Labs at General Instruments Canada where much of the Cable Scrambling and early Digital Cable was invented. Yes and I got my name on a few patents as well in the mid 80’s for my troubles.

        Cable was invented in London Ontario as a community Television Antenna system to get signals from the US since it was more than 100 miles from Buffalo NY. TV antenna’s on every house were also a eyesore. They were nowhere near as small as current 18″ dishes.

      • Eric

        WRT: Showers & faucets:

        My tub has one large knob. Pull it out to turn on; the further you pull, the more water. Turn it left or right to change the temperature.

        There’s a plunger on the tub spigot. Pull it up, and water comes out of the shower rather than the spigot.

        The “old school” way of doing it is with 3 valves: Hot, Cold, and “shower.” The shower valve would close off the tub spigot and force the water of the shower.

        There is one **major** advantage to the all-in-one valve that I have: It’s flow balanced, so you can flush the toilet right next to it, and the temperature does not change, at all.

      • keithr

        It is silly that Hawaii uses imported non renewable resources for power when there is geothermal energy to burn, but that is the way that Hawaii works. They get milk flown in from Texas (which is why it is so expensive) and even the sand on Waikiki beach was imported from California. You’d have to suspect that some-one in the transport business has a lot of influence there.

        The cables are typical of the US as a whole, go down any small lane in New England for instance and you’ll see the damn things. Mind you I have heard it said that the only reason that they don’t put the sewers overhead in Sydney is the lack of strong enough poles.

        The shower taps depend on the model, I have just spent a week in a hotel in Hong Kong where they had similar devices, but in this case, swinging the lever left and right controlled the temperature, and moving it in and out controlled the quantity. I found that just as acceptable as separate taps. Mind you a separate shower stall would be preferable.

        • and even the sand on Waikiki beach was imported from California

          I thought the sand on Waikiki and several beaches on Maui were imported from Sydney?
          Even the locals were telling me that.


      • You know if you turn the water on first, then all you have to do is pull down on the tub spout, and the shower will function. I guess its all about what you are used to.

      • nice video !
        i really appreciate your view of things 🙂
        one little contribution from my side:


        german engineered, auto temperature regulated mixer unit – we have it and it’s perfect !
        very water saving too because you always have the perfect temperature at any waterflow 🙂

      • Dakota

        I have to agree that those cable TV lines are hideous. When Cable TV first came out, everybody ordered it and they ran the wires the quickest way they could; on the power lines. Nowadays everybody has satellite TV and these cable TV lines are still every where because they cause so much to remove. I wish all lines (cable, electricity, telephone) had been rund underground. I don’t like having my rural views interrupted by power lines. As far as those valves go, have you ever been to the USA mainland? Hawaii has a history of being made of temporary fixes, so those valves don’t surprise me. generally the US has regular water faucets with a hot and cold knob, coming out of one spout. The ones you described seem rather strange.

      • Andrew

        Pot calling kettle black?

        How can we complain about Hawaii not using renewable energy when Australia is one of the most coal dependent countries in the world? (per capita).

        We also have massive expanses of land that could easily support geothermal or molten salt solar power.

        • Pot calling kettle black?
          How can we complain about Hawaii not using renewable energy when Australia is one of the most coal dependent countries in the world? (per capita).

          I don’t disagree, and I personally pay top dollar for my power to be supplied from 100% wind energy.
          But in this instance I was leaving aside the whole fossil fuel/climate change argument and was simply referring to Hawaii’s geographical isolation and almost total dependence upon imported material for their energy. Australia at least has it’s own massive coal reserves. Hawaii should be following NZ’s example.

          Yes, Australia are massive dickheads too, with only a pittance of funding going into renewable energy, that’s why I at least do my bit and cough up the dough to help encourage renewable energy uptake.
          It pisses me off that Australia continually pisses away it’s opportunity to become the world leader in renewable energy.


      • threepointone

        Problem with underground power lines, I think, is lower efficiency–you get losses through the ground if your transmission line voltage is too high, and of course lower transmission line voltage means more I2R loss. On the other hand, you aren’t limited by the maximum supporting weight, so I figure they could also increase the amount of copper to reduce the R.

        • Sean

          And is pretty spectacular when it goes off. We had a 10kv subdivision feeder arc into the dirt about 4 years ago. The fuse for that buried feeder is one house over from me on the street. The flashbang was impressive, the wall shook, my window rattled and I had this blue electric death dazzle afterimage as I was sitting at my computer in front of the window at the time. And that was only the fuse evaporating.

          Usually you can tell when one of these goes, the bottom half drops and hangs rather conspicuously as a failure indicator. The lineman looked at it (after dark at the time) about four or five times and asked me if I was really sure that was where the noise came from. He trained a better spotlight on it, and there was nothing left of the darn thing.

          Being underground fairly close to the buried phone lines, it either arced over or induced current into the line and fried every phone and modem on that branch as well. Not sure if the buried cable got cooked as well, but one of the neighbors had Charter over a half dozen times the next two weeks, so I’m guessing…

      • Sean

        1) NTSC – Never The Same Color. Yep. Digital is sweet! Even if you are still using an NTSC set and a converter. Clearer and better color.

        2) Two hundred channels of nothing. Well now, probably why I’m watching you on Youtube. Out of all those 200 channels, we will never see stuff specific to electronics nerds like us. So, you can guess that I don’t watch too much TV. Plus with all those people fighting for funding and viewership, more = less.

        3) The cables are not cable TV, Dave. Look for the 1/2 hardline coax, maybe one or two only. The rest is POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) thick as your arm twisted pair copper for the telephone. They’re pretty much in the dark ages there obviously. Over here in the benighted bits of Oregon we’ve been converting to fiber between DSLAMS and telephone junction boxes. This stuff is being put under ground as one or two fiber cables eliminating all that junk you see up there. Yes, most US cities can be visual rats nests where this has not been done. I hate it and cheer whenever a truck snags it and creates the need for replacement.

        4) From my plumbing experience, National Code requires anti-scald technology be installed in all new installations or replacement. You can identify these systems because of the use of a diverter valve (shower head or tub spigot) and a single temperature control. The temperature control attaches to a balance valve that operates by as you go through the arc, first turning on the cold water to its full extent, and then the hot water up to a maximum preset flow which is adjusted with a setscrew. There is no flow control, only temperature. The balance valve is set up to throttle the flow of hot water dependent on the flow of cold water (flushing a toilet can drop the cold side pressure which then throttles back the hot water flow in proportion). In theory this prevents you from getting a blast of 140degree F water shooting out of the shower head, causing you to get burnt.

        5) Fossil fuel (I’m with ya’) we aren’t going to stop till we have a crude oil ring round the North American Continent…

      • The telephone system we are using today still uses the legacy Tip and Ring -48 Volts line which is susceptible to noise.-,;

      • our telephone system these days are so great that they are packed with so many features*,:

      • Aki


        Shameless product promotion, made in Finland. 😉

      • Alex

        Separate hot and cold taps, as many have in the UK too, are crap and should be banned from the face of the Earth. Once you have found an ideal temperature you cant easily modify the flow without screwing up the temperature again. Many single taps have a button to start/stop the flow of water after say you put the shampoo on. This way you keep your set temperature and flow rate. I am not sure if that is what you came across though.

      • Eric Ferguson

        First, lets please stop using the term ‘renewable energy’ to describe wind and solar, etc. It is not renewable. The term renewable means it can be made new again. Wood is an approximate. Burning wood releases CO2, a powerful airborne fertilizer, along with the ash, both help grow new trees. How does using a wind turbine create more wind? It doesn’t. Label it an alternative to fossil fuels or limitless if you wish. It is not renewable.
        I agree, if the reasons to reject energy sources such as wind or solar are cosmetic they are being silly. Everything is extraordinarily expensive in Hawaii because most everything is shipped in. It would seem beneficial to produce as much as possible locally, including energy. (okay, the electricity is made there but the oil and coal are shipped in at great expense) There are viable reasons to oppose these ‘alternative’ energy sources, efficiency, initial cost, output versus operational cost, efficacy, but cosmetics is a poor excuse.
        Here in the United States (land of the free) two handle faucets and door knobs are illegal in public places. The Americans with Disabilities Act outlaws these things in addition to a host of other regulations. Most States have rules requiring anti-scolding water taps as well. It isn’t a matter of convenience or preference or design. It’s a matter of laws in place to appease special interest. A public establishment can be sued, and a guaranteed loser, if they have door knobs instead of levers. You will have a difficult time finding any public establishment with a door knob. Additionally, most of the water taps used for lodging are of a special reduced flow design as one of the largest expenses of such establishments is water. They have small orifices to produce higher output pressure and aeration for the illusion of higher volume. Some States have rules requiring the use of these low water usage devices. They’ve gotten much better but going back to 1994 when the government outlawed toilets using more than 1.6 US gallons (6 litre)there was a black market for imported illegal toilets. The low flow ones didn’t work and ended up using more water because you had to flush several times to complete the task.
        I personally prefer a single lever tap over two. Taps that operate in two dimensions are best. You have a left-to-right adjustment for temperature and an in-to-out or up-to-down adjustment for flow. You can adjust either without disturbing the other. Most lodging establishments however have a tap operating only with the temperature adjustment.

      • Christian Berger

        Actually I have now moved to a flat with a conventional design tap on the shower and I have to say that’s not really better. With that “single leaver” design you just set it to the mixing ratio you typically want, then you turn it on and after a few seconds you have water just the way you want it. And if you turn it off, the mixing ratio is stored in the position of the leaver.

        Actually there’s one up, shower taps with built-in thermostats. So you can actually set it to a given temperature and they will adjust the ratio automatically.

        As for converted video, the quality of converters has improved a great deal over the last decades. Standard converters are no longer cameras in front of screens, or banks of glass delay lines. Modern standard converters can keep pretty decent pictures. In fact I’m quite sure the early Pal-Plus demos were done with down-converted HDTV (1250 line).

      • Lippo

        Download link does’t work at all!!
        please fix it dave.
        thanx man…

      The EEVblog Store generally ships twice a week, on Tuesdays & Fridays, Sydney time. Dismiss